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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Census Data on Poverty, Income, and Health Insurance

Here's a round up or reactions to the Poverty, Income, and health Insurance Report released today by the Census Bureau:

Statement by Robert Greenstein on the New New Census Bureau Data on Poverty, Income, and Health Insurance, CBPP: ...[T]he new Census data are disquieting. Though 2007 was the sixth (and likely the final) year of an economic expansion, poverty was significantly higher, the median income of non-elderly households significantly lower, and the number and percentage of Americans who are uninsured substantially greater than in 2001 — even though the economy was in recession that year.

This is unprecedented. Never before on record has poverty been higher and median income for working-age households lower at the end of a multi-year economic expansion than at the beginning. The new data add to the mounting evidence that the gains from the 2001-2007 expansion were concentrated among high-income Americans. ...

In addition, the number of children living in poverty jumped by 500,000 to 13.3 million, and the child poverty rate climbed from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 18.0 percent in 2007. There was some welcome news on child health insurance – the number of children lacking health insurance declined in 2007, but it remained 400,000 above the number of children who lacked insurance three years earlier, in 2004.

The data also show that employer-based health coverage — and private health coverage in general — continued to erode in 2007, and that all of the improvement in health care coverage in 2007 was due to more Americans obtaining coverage through government health insurance programs, principally Medicare and Medicaid.

Data for 2008 Expected to Be Unfavorable The data for 2007 are of particular concern given that the economy is now in a slowdown, and poverty is almost certainly higher now — and incomes lower — than in 2007. ... This suggests that significant pain may lie ahead for many Americans. ...

Paul Krugman summarizes the significance of the implications of the Census data:

About that Bush Boom …, by Paul Krugman: The 2007 income, poverty and health insurance numbers are out. As far as I can tell on a first read, there’s nothing deeply surprising. Still, they represent a landmark — and not in a good way.

The key point is that 2007 was the end of an economic expansion — whether or not the NBER declares a recession, the employment situation, which is what matters to most people, has deteriorated sharply this year. So 2007 was as good as it got in this cycle. Yet median household income was lower than in 2000, while both the poverty rate and the percentage of Americans without health insurance were higher.

In short, the economic policies we’ve been following just aren’t working.

Is the bad economic news all Bush’s fault? No, of course not — but remember, the key argument of the right has always been that tax cuts and deregulation would produce good news, a rising tide that raised all boats. Boy, has that not happened.

But remember, we’re just a nation of whiners.

Michael Mandel notes the bad news for recent college graduates:

No Income Gain for Young College Grads, by Michael Mandel: The latest income distribution numbers are out from the Census Bureau. ...

For my part, I’m back to my regular business of being concerned with young college grads—the ones who don’t have advanced degrees. Basically, the last numbers show almost no change between 2006 and 2007 (as the chart below shows). Young college grads still have not made back their losses from the earlier part of the decade. ...

Jared Bernstein at the EPI echoes the above:

Income Picture, by Jared Bernstein: [See also..., Overall health insurance coverage rises, but masks decline in private coverage.] ...While last year’s overall income gains are good news, the longer-range view is quite different. The Census figures show that the economic cycle that began in 2000 and ended late last year was one of the weakest on record for working families, despite strong overall economic growth during the same period (see Table 1 and Figure 1). ...

Looking at the full cycle across economic peak years—a more useful measure in evaluating economic performance—reveals that household income was no higher in 2007 than in 2000, the previous peak. Given rising joblessness and declining real wages, next year’s numbers will certainly be worse. ...

... The economy of course expanded in the 2000s, but that growth clearly failed to reach most households, a dynamic that implicates growing income inequality. ...

Next, Brad DeLong

Barack Obama on the Income-Poverty-Health Release, by Brad DeLong: Statement From Senator Obama on the Census Income, Health Insurance and Poverty Numbers

Today’s news confirms what America’s struggling families already know – that over the past seven years our economy has moved backwards. We have now lived through first so-called economic ‘expansion’ on record where typical families saw their incomes fall, and working-age households lost more than $2,000 from their paychecks. Another 816,000 Americans fell into poverty in 2007 – including nearly 500,000 children – bringing the total increase in Americans in poverty under President Bush to 5.7 million. And on Bush’s watch, an additional 7.2 million Americans have fallen into the ranks of the uninsured. This is the failed record of George Bush’s economic policies that Senator McCain has called ‘great progress.’ While Senator McCain is promising four more years of the failed Bush economic policies, my economic plan will restore bottom up economic growth that benefits all Americans by cutting taxes for working Americans, providing affordable, accessible health care for all, and investing in new energy, education and infrastructure so we can create millions of good jobs here in America,” said Senator Barack Obama.

Highlights from the Census report:

  • Between 2000 and 2007, median income for working age households fell by $2,176. When elderly households are included, median income declined by $324 over the same period. This is the first economic expansion on record where typical households have seen their incomes decline. Under the Clinton Administration, median household income increased by $6,200.
  • African American household income fell by $1,804 between 2000 and 2007; Hispanic household income fell by $1,256 over the same period...
  • An additional 816,000 Americans fell into poverty in 2007, bringing the total increase in Americans in poverty under President Bush to 5.7 million.
  • 500,000 children fell into poverty in 2007. There are 1.7 million more children living in poverty than in 2000.
  • Between 2000 and 2007, an additional 7.2 million Americans have fallen into the ranks of the uninsured. This is the largest increase in the number of people without health insurance of any Presidential Administration on record.
  • The share of Americans with private health coverage fell from 67.9% in 2006 to 67.5% in 2007. This share has fallen every year that President Bush has been in office, declining a total of 5 percentage points since 2000.
  • 940,000 African Americans have lost health insurance since 2000, along with 3 million Hispanics

Mathew Yglesias emphasized the importance of the public sector as a health insurance backstop:

Public Sector to the Rescue, by Mathew Yglesias: Today’s Census numbers show a slight downtick in the proportion of Americans who lack health insurance. This, Jonathan Cohn notes, despite a continued decline in the number of people with private sector health insurance. “The reason the overall numbers look good is rising enrollment in public insurance programs, particularly Medicaid.” He also notes that when you peer into the numbers, the state with the largest overall two-year increase in health insurance rates is Massachusetts, which has adopted the most aggressive health care reform agenda of any state and serves as a kinda sorta model for what progressive reform at the federal level — especially something authored by Ted Kennedy — might look like.

And, finally, one more from Brad DeLong

Income and Poverty Over the 2000-2007 Business Cycle, by Brad DeLong: 2000-2007: the first business cycle during which median household income in America falls from peak to peak. ...


It's not all George W. Bush's fault, but I can think of a number of things he did to hurt and not a damned thing he did to help. ...

    Posted by on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 12:06 PM in Economics, Health Care, Social Insurance | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (94)


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